How to Start Doing Something for Yourself


It’s Friday night and you have lots of things planned out for the weekend, but as always, you just end up binge watching Netflix while endlessly scrolling your Facebook feed. Before you know it, it’s Monday. Is this all too familiar?

Have you ever felt constantly being distracted by everything — that you don’t know what to do with your life any more? I bet you have a lot of things that you want to achieve, but find that there is so little time to do them.

In this digital environment, you are constantly distracted from all the things that are going on around you. Everything is competing for your attention, and you can’t help but entertain all of them, like:

  • Urgent and not so urgent work emails
  • New comments and likes on your Facebook post
  • Attacks on your Clash of Clans base
  • Black Friday sale promotions on Amazon
  • and the list goes on…

Why can’t you make time for you, and do something that you have always wanted?

1. What do you want to do?

The most important question — whether it’s learning how to drive, to cook, to doing arts and crafts, or even to becoming fit — what do you want to do? If everything has been provided for, and if you don’t have to worry about anything, what do you want to try?

Find something that you would like to learn. It doesn't have to be your passion, but it has to be something that you enjoy doing. For me, it was lettering and calligraphy, and I couldn't be happier since I started taking action last year.

About two years ago, I embarked on a journey to find my passion. It was not easy, and it took some time. However, thinking about it is something necessary to discover and appreciate myself more.

Happiness — IG: @nathanielong

Think about it, and write it down.

2. Define your target performance level

Identify your goal. Why do you want to start doing something? Is it because you want to be an expert in it? Do you want to be able to use that skill to make money? Or, do you simply want to do it for fun or to impress?

Define your target performance level. What is an acceptable level for you?

Depending on your answer to the questions above, you can determine the level of proficiency that you want to achieve. Setting a goal that is easier to achieve helps you reach it faster and more comfortably. It also gives you more confidence to push harder. Remember that your goals should be specific and realistic.

After reaching the target level, you can then decide whether you want to pursue it further, or move on to doing the next thing.

3. Break it down

Identify the basic building blocks to achieve your goal. Survey the breadth of knowledge and deconstruct them into sub-skills that you need to know primarily.

You can find clues on your favorite shows, podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs. The internet is a wealth of information. Here are some questions that can help you:

  • What is the minimum level of knowledge you need to have in order to start?
  • What materials or tools do you need?
  • What are the steps that you need to take?
  • What are the resources that you need to review?

By deconstructing the information and the skills that you need to learn, you are able to focus on the more important ones that will give you the best value. Do one thing at a time, and you’ll go through the motions with more ease. After all, it’s easier and more pleasant to chew a steak that has been sliced into bite-sized chunks.

For example, if you want to bake cakes, you’ll likely need to know the following:

  • Different types of cakes,
  • Baking methods and how to use the tools,
  • Theories on different flavors, and
  • Designing the cakes

Break it down and focus on one subset at a time, so that you will not be overwhelmed.

4. Practice Deliberately and Focus

Hustle Hard — IG: @nathanielong

The only way to get better is through practising deliberately. Work on the basic building blocks to achieve your goal. Set a regular schedule that you can follow through at least 30 minutes a day.

The results will not be perfect instantly, and that is perfectly fine. As long as you are committed to doing the hard work, it will eventually pay off. Gordon Ramsay did not become a great chef without practice and lots of failed attempts. The local pastry chef did not become good in a day, in a week, in a month or even in a year. Even talented people need time to do drills and focus.

There will be days when you struggle and don’t feel like doing things. But you must power through and just show up everyday. Remind yourself why you want to learn and do this. Even though the results today is worse than yesterday’s, the dedication and the amount of time you put in it is more important. With each day of practice, you are allowing your muscles to remember each stroke, and allowing your mind to optimize them along the way.

Record your daily or weekly progress. Take some photos, record videos, or write things down. So whenever you feel that you are not getting better, you can look back on when you first started, and see how far you have come.

5. Expand your knowledge and learn with like-minded people

When you’re starting to get comfortable with the basics, look out for various opportunities to grow your knowledge. You can attend workshops, courses and meetups to validate what you know, to expand your skills and to network. It is easier and more fun to learn when you find like-minded individuals that you can share your experiences with.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people, nor to ask. Even though you are just starting out, there would always be something that you can bring to the table.

What better way to learn than with people who are experiencing similar joys and pains that you are going through. You can take comfort in knowing that there are people who you can relate with. You can support and push each other to grow.

Finally, do not overwhelm yourself. It is too easy to start too many things at a time, and end up not finishing anything. Focus on 1 skill at a time. After you have made good progress, you can always do the steps all over again for the new thing you want to do.

Let me know how your progress goes. I will share more about how I started lettering and calligraphy in my next post. You may engage with me on Medium, Instagram and Twitter: @nathanielong, or on Facebook: @Designate Studio